Pig Wars – Here comes the bride
Several of us had been painting away on Dark Ages models, so we decided it was time for another Pig Wars game. As Bob elegantly put it at the game, “skirmish games should have a story and not just be stand up fights”. For this one I wanted to get a nice multiplayer game with a factions, uncertain allies, hidden victory conditions, etc., and we had a nice turnout for the game.
The scenario involved a forming political alliance between an earl of Wessex and a local East Anglian lord. The East Anglian can see the way the winds are shifting in the struggle between the Saxons of Wessex and the Danes controlling East Anglia and decides to join the Wessex camp. To seal the alliance, the Anglian’s daughter is to wed the Saxon earl. Other Danish leaders in East Anglia are not amused by this turn of events and set out to prevent the union. Both sides bring along some mercenaries to aid their cause. The actions starts with the Saxons approaching the river crossing (the agreed on meeting place) with the bride price while the Anglians are bringing the bride, her attendants, and the dowry. Two Danish groups are poised to strike against the caravan while the Irish mercenaries move through the woods covering the flank of the Saxons. Finally, the Viking mercenaries creep up behind the Saxon caravan
As the action opened, the Vikings moved out from behind the woods to threaten the Saxons. The Saxons respond by forming most of their troops into a shield wall to protect their wagons and cattle. The initial exchange of missiles went badly for the Saxons, who lost most of their archers. The Irish moved out and closed up to the river, knocking out a Dane or two with slings. The Danish pretender (a relative of the East Anglian noble who wants his uncle’s land) moved out to engage the East Anglians, sending in his berserkers. The Anglians respond with some missile fire, but suffer badly in the initial exchange of melee. The Saxons from Wessex get earlier initiative draws in these early rounds and get their caravan to the crossing first, forcing the Anglians to hold up and wait as the Saxons push the bride price over the river. Meanwhile the Danes form up into a defensive formation south of the river and signal to the Irish their desire to parley.
I was playing my Irish and as my leader figure was across the river, I had a couple of turns before I reached parley range (which we set at 6″ – the distance of a thrown spear) to see how the fight was unfolding. The Danes were not engaging the wagon train and the Anglians were for the moment holding off the Pretender. In the west, the Vikings are finally able to charge the Saxons, but the Saxons are in their shield wall. Mik had formed a warband with a few strong models and lots of militia – looks like his boat crew was on their first voyage a-viking. The farmers-turned-raiders held their own initially and got a few kills, but against the shield wall they started to unravel and go down. Soon the casualties were stacking up on both sides. North of the road, the Anglians continued to fight against the Pretender’s Danes, taking a fair number of casualties but passing the initial morale tests. Soon however the Pretender’s berserkers began to suffer from exhaustion and fall out of the battle, which helped the Anglian to even the balance. The Pretender suffered a morale failure and fell back, the battle was rejoined, and then the Anglians fell back.
Back to the south, I finally had my Irish over the river and with the Danish noble forward and looking to parley, I made the decision that I thought the Saxons would win out and so I would receive my payment and that with the Danish noble away from most of his troops, I might be able to capture him for some bonus points. I attacked, launching a hail of missiles and javelins at his bodyguard while attacking some archers nearby. Unfortunately one of the archers cut down an Irish warrior and another held off my attacking Irish nobleman for two turns. The Danish lord took a couple of hits from missiles, but was able to withdraw back behind his men. My gamble had not paid off. To make matters worse, the Saxons transferred the chest with my payment to the bride’s wagon and headed back across the river with it.
In the latter part of the battle the Saxons rallied to kill off many of the remaining Viking Mercenaries and the remainder of the militia troops routed and fled off the table. The bride and a portion of her dowry had made it into Saxon hands. The Saxons had also delivered the bride price across the river, fulfilling their side of the bargain. The Anglians however were not exactly in a strong position to recover their goods. A morale failure had caused the Anglians to fall back and although they were able to reform a line and the Pretender was not in any shape to destroy them, the Danes were still strong and near the bride price caravan (and already in possession of the bride’s wardrobe and personal effects). The Irish were strong, but out of position to reach the retreating Saxons with their payment and probably not strong enough to fight through the Danes to reach the loot.
With the end of our regularly scheduled game time, we wrapped up the game and looked at the victory conditions. Neither mercenary group did well, as Mik’s Vikings were cut down and my Irish ineffective and double-crossed by the Saxons. The Pretender’s forces managed to grab some loot, but the Anglian lord had escaped and their would be no new ruler of that territory. The Anglians were treated roughly on the battlefield and paid a heavy price with the loss of the bride price, but did manage to secure their alliance with Wessex. The Danes could not prevent the alliance, but did manage to grab a part of the bride price and definitely came out of the battle stronger than either the Saxons or East Anglians. The Saxons were the most successful, fulfilling most of their victory conditions – recovering the bride, delivering the bride price, and sneaking out of paying the Irish. Good times were had by all. Mik has a few more pictures on his blog.
After this game, I’m completely happy with our tweaks to Pig Wars. We made morale tests a little harder to pass, so that aspect plays a bigger role and have made a few other little changes to reflect our style of play that work well without adding any significant effort to the game. As before we used the Saga cards to give models and heroes a few special abilities and the Norn cards to represent random events and such. Those few little tweaks introduce just the right amount of “heroic epic”. We (by which I mean Bob) also created a points system that should allow us to quickly throw together warbands, allowing any other members of the group who want to paint some figures to easily add theirs to a future game. The system seems to work well.
I’m definitely looking forward to getting hold of a copy of the next issue of Wargames Illustrated, which will have an number of articles dedicated to the Vikings in Ireland! perfect for my minis collection. I’m hoping to build or buy some Irish buildings and stockades to make a typical rath settlement and maybe a crannog as well. Then as soon as I get more Irish painted I can do a big game with Vikings raiding Irish farms. The other thing we need to do is work on getting a few more things done to pretty up the table. Bob’s buildings are nice but definitely a later period. I also want to get a full set of markers for indicating various status, such as the yellow shields for routing troops. Also need more civilians, animals, etc. We used Bob’s wagons from his Boer war games, but it would be nice to have some period carts instead. I have a few priests and civilians to get painted and plan to slowly add more.
Finally, a thank you to my wife, who rescued the game for us after I left all of the play sheets and scenario sheets at home. She emailed the files to Bob’s house and we were able to print them out and get on with the game!